"I have frequently suffered from waterborne related diseases including diarrhea and typhoid," said teenager Lavender, who lives in Bukhakunga Community and depends on Martin Imbusi Spring for water.
Lavender speaks for all 105 people in Bukhakunga when she tells of their illnesses caused by the spring's water. In its unprotected state, all types of contaminants ranging from soil to farm chemicals and animal waste pour into the spring runoff from the rains. Pillows of algae float in the water and grow on the bottom, giving the pool of water a green color. This water is not safe for consumption. Many time, energy, and financial resources are lost to families trying to pay for medication and hospital visits to treat their water-related diseases.
Accessibility is the other main concern at Martin Imbusi Spring. To fetch water, people must scoop the water using small jugs or bowls to then pour into their larger jerrycans; the spring is not deep enough to submerge their containers. But the jugs they dip in carrying any soil and bacteria from their surface, and people's hands directly into the water people are fetching. If too many people try to fetch water at once, too much mud from the bottom gets churned up in the water, forcing people to wait even longer for the water to settle before they can begin fetching again.
The entire water fetching process is time-consuming and frustrating. As people wait in the long lines and crowds, they miss out on other productive work time. Tensions often arise, especially if someone accidentally stirred up mud in the water while fetching it. Neighbors accuse neighbors of negligence and selfishness, leading to a general lack of trust and cooperation within the community.
"The constant conflict among people is quite frustrating, as is the lining up for long periods of time," said Mary Nasonga, a 60-year-old farmer.
What We Can Do:
Protecting the spring will help provide access to cleaner and safer water and reduce the time people have to spend to fetch it. Construction will keep surface runoff and other contaminants out of the water. With the community’s high involvement in the process, there should be a good sense of responsibility and ownership for the new clean water source.
Fetching water is a task predominantly carried out by women and young girls. Therefore, protecting the spring and offering training and support will help empower the female members of the community by freeing up more of their time and energy to engage and invest in income-generating activities and their education.
Training on Health, Hygiene, COVID-19, and More
To hold training during the pandemic, we work closely with both community leaders and the local government to approve small groups to attend training. We ask community leaders to invite a select yet representative group of people to attend training, which will then act as ambassadors to the rest of the community to share what they learn. We also communicate our expectations of physical distancing and wearing masks for all who choose to attend.
The training will focus on improved hygiene, health, and sanitation habits in this community. We will also have a dedicated session on COVID-19 symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention best practices.
With the community’s input, we will identify key leverage points to alter their practices at the personal, household, and community levels to affect change. This training will help to ensure participants have the knowledge they need about healthy practices and their importance to make the most of their water point as soon as the water is flowing.
Our team of facilitators will use a variety of methods to train community members. Some of these methods include participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation, asset-based community development, group discussions, handouts, and demonstrations at the spring.
One of the most important issues we plan to cover is handling, storing, and treating water. Having a clean water source will be extremely helpful, but it is useless if water gets contaminated by the time it is consumed. The community and we strongly believe that all of these components will work together to improve living standards here, which will help to unlock the potential for these community members to live better, healthier lives.
We will then conduct a small series of follow-up training before transitioning to our regularly scheduled support visits throughout the year.
Training will result in the formation of a water user committee, elected by their peers, that will oversee the spring's operations and maintenance. The committee will enforce proper behavior around the spring and delegate tasks that will help preserve the site, such as building a fence and digging proper drainage channels. The fence will keep out destructive animals and unwanted waste, and the drainage will keep the area’s mosquito population at a minimum.